The War on Elephants

Alastair Leithead, The War on Elephants. BBC, 28 April 2016. “How the very existence of Africa’s elephants is threatened by poachers, traffickers and Asia’s appetite for ivory.”

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How Killing Elephants Finances Terror in Africa

Bryan Christy, How Killing Elephants Finances Terror in Africa. National Geographic, 12 August 2015. “…[T]he African elephant is under siege. A booming Chinese middle class with an insatiable taste for ivory, crippling poverty in Africa, weak and corrupt law enforcement, and more ways than ever to kill an elephant have created a perfect storm. The result: Some 30,000 African elephants are slaughtered every year, more than 100,000 between 2010 and 2012, and the pace of killing is not slowing. Most illegal ivory goes to China, where a pair of ivory chopsticks can bring more than a thousand dollars and carved tusks sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Update: Paul Steyn, African Elephant Numbers Plummet 30 Percent, Landmark Survey Finds. National Geographic, 31 August 2016. “An unprecedented census gives a sobering baseline for managing what’s left of Africa’s elephants.” The finding of the Great Elephant Census, a continent-wide wildlife survey, is worrying: “Africa now has 352,271 savanna elephants left in 93 percent of the species’ range. The aerial survey covered 18 African countries. In 15 of those, where information on previous populations existed, 144,000 elephants were lost to ivory poaching and habitat destruction in less than a decade. The current yearly loss—overwhelmingly from poaching—is estimated at 8 percent. That’s about 27,000 elephants slaughtered year after year…. The census was funded by Microsoft founder Paul G. Allen and took just under three years to complete. Led by the nonprofit Elephants Without Borders, which is based in Botswana, the survey involved a team of 90 scientists, six NGOs, and two advisory partners: the Kenya-based conservation organization Save the Elephants and the African Elephant Specialist Group, made up of experts who focus on the conservation and management of African elephants.”

Update: Edward Wong and Jeffrey Gettleman, China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching. The New York Times, 30 December 2016. China announced on Friday that it was banning all commerce in ivory by the end of 2017, a move that would shut down the world’s largest ivory market and could deal a critical blow to the practice of elephant poaching in Africa.”

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U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit: Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry

Michael Moss, U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit. The New York Times, 19 January 2015. “At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise. There are, however, some complications. Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed. Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation….”

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The Way of All Flesh: Undercover in an industrial slaughterhouse.

Ted Conover, The Way of All Flesh. Harper’s, May 2013. Reprinted by by permission of the author.”Undercover in an industrial slaughterhouse.”

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The Cruelest Show on Earth: Our yearlong investigation rips the big top off how Ringling Bros. treats its elephants

Deborah Nelson, The Cruelest Show on Earth. Mother Jones, November/December 2011. “Bullhooks. Whippings. Electric shocks. Three-day train rides without breaks. Our yearlong investigation rips the big top off how Ringling Bros. treats its elephants…. Elephants are smart, social creatures that communicate through a complex score of rumbles, trumpets, and gestures; they also have long memories and the capacity to celebrate, mourn, and empathize. Feld Entertainment portrays its population of some 50 endangered Asian elephants as ‘pampered performers” who “are trained through positive reinforcement, a system of repetition and reward that encourages an animal to show off its innate athletic abilities.’ But a yearlong Mother Jones investigation shows that Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants. They are lame from balancing their 8,000-pound frames on tiny tubs and from being confined in cramped spaces, sometimes for days at a time. They are afflicted with tuberculosis and herpes, potentially deadly diseases rare in the wild and linked to captivity.”

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Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962): Pesticides Are Killing Birds and Mammals

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. Houghton Mifflin, 27 September 1962. Elizabeth Kolbert: “As much as any book can, “Silent Spring” changed the world by describing it. An immediate best-seller, the book launched the modern environmental movement, which, in turn, led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the passage of the Clean Air, the Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts, and the banning of a long list of pesticides, including dieldrin.” Silent Spring was first serialized in The New Yorker in June 1962.

Part I of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in The New Yorker, 16 June 1962, can be read here.

Part II of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in The New Yorker, 23 June 1962, can be read here.

Part III of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in The New Yorker, 30 June 1962, can be read here.

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The Jungle: The Horrific Conditions of Labor and Meat Production in the Meatpacking Industry

Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (link to Project Gutenberg). Appeared in Appeal to Reason in serial form between 25 February and 4 November 1905. Christopher Hitchens: “[Upton Sinclair’s] intention was to direct the conscience of [people in the US] to the inhuman conditions in which immigrant labor was put to work. However, so graphic and detailed were his depictions of the filthy way in which food was produced that his book sparked a revolution among consumers instead (and led at some remove to the passage of the [Pure Food and Drug Act] and the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. He wryly said of this unintended consequence that he had aimed for the public’s heart but had instead hit its stomach.”

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